March 15, 44 BC: Julius Caesar Dies


WHAT HAPPENED? (1)


Julius Caesar, born Gaius Julius Caesar on July 12 100 BC was a Roman statesman and military general who was heavily involved in the demise of the Roman Republic, and the subsequent rise of the Roman Empire.


In 60 BC, he and others formed the first political alliance that dominated Roman politics for years, called the Triumvirate. During this time, Caesar rose to become one of the most powerful politicians due to various accomplishments, including his victories in the Gallic Wars. He became the first Roman general to cross the English Channel and the Rhine River, by building a bridge across. His achievements gave him unmatched military power.


However, then the Gallic Wars were over he was ordered to step down from his military command, but this would cause him to lose the immunity he had from being charged for waging wars, so he left his province and illegally entered Roman Italy, beginning Caesar's civil war, which he won in 45 BC, giving him unrivaled power. He took control of the government and began a number of social and government reforms, including giving citizenship to many residents, initiating land reform and providing support for veterans.


Though supported by many, the elites did not like his populist ideals and began to conspire against him. And on the Ides of March in 44 BC, he was assassinated by a group of rebel senators. After his death, Octavian, later known as Augustus, defeated all opponents in the ensuing civil war and solidified his power, beginning the area of the Roman Empire.


Caesar's life was documented through his accounts of military campaigns, letters, speeches and other historical writings. He is known to be one of the greatest military commanders in history, and his name became a synonym for the word "emperor".

EARLY AND PERSONAL LIFE


Julius Caesar was born into a family that had some political ties. His father governed the province of Asia, his aunt married one of the most prominent figures in the republic, and his mother came from a similarly influential family.


At the age of 16, upon his father's sudden death, Julius became the head of the family. During this time, there was a civil war between his uncle and his rival, and the fights were regular and bloody. His uncle was in control of the city and nominated Julius as the new "high priest of Jupiter", and he was married to his uncle's ally's daughter Cornelia.


But his uncle's rival, Sulla, won, and a target was essentially placed on his back. He lost his inheritance and priesthood and was forced to go into hiding. Despite that, he refused to divorce his wife. His mother came to his rescue with her connections to Sulla's supporters, and the threat was lifted from him. He was no longer able to be a priest, so he decided to pursue a military career. However, he still left Rome in case Sulla changed his mind, and stayed away until Sulla died and he was able to safely return.


On his return home, he was captured by pirates and held prisoner for ransom. After he paid, he raised his own fleet where he pursued and captured the pirates and cut their throats.


His return to Rome brought about a new job, as he was elected military tribune. His wife died around this time. He remarried Pompeia, the granddaughter of Sulla, but they divorced a few years later.


He married a third time to Calpurnia, who he was married to until his death.


He had 3 children, 2 biologically and 1 adopted. His first child was named Julia and he had her with his first wife, Cornelia. His second child was not a product of any of his marriages. That child's name was Caesarion, and was killed at age 17 by his final (adopted) child, Octavianus, who later became Emperor Augustus. He was the gradchildchild of his sister Julia (it is important to note he had 2 sisters named Julia and 1 daughter named Julia). He is suspected to have had more children.


He had several lovers, including Cleopatra VII, the mother of his child Caesarion, Servilla, the mother of Brutus, and Eunoe, a queen and wife.


There have been rumors since the time Caesar was alive that he was gay, though that type of slander was common to discredit political opponents. Some believe that Augustus was adopted by Caesar through sexual favors, but it is unproven. The biggest rumor is that he had an affair with Nicomedes IV of Bithynia early in his career, partially because soldiers used to sing, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar." He denied this rumors his entire life.

ASSASSINATION


On the Ides of March, Caesar was to appear at a session of the senate, many of whom had been conspiring to kill Caesar because of his political reforms once he won his civil war and came into unrivaled power.


The night before, Mark Antony, who Caesar had left Italy in the control of and who was eventually appointed as Master of Horse when he took over as dictator, had learned of the plan beforehand, and he headed to Caesar to let him know what was going to happen. But the conspirers knew this may happen, and they intercepted him before he could get to him and detained him.


Caesar arrived at the Senate, and a member presented him with a petition to un-exile his brother, and the other conspirators gathered around to support. Caesar waved him off, and the Senate member who had presented the petition, Cimber, grabbed his shoulders and began attacking him.


Casca, who had been the senator who had let the plan slip to Antony, brought out his dagger and made a thrust at his neck, but Caesar was able to catch his arm and ask him what he was doing. But within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, were attacking him, and he could not get away. They continued to stab him 23 times as he lay helpless.

Though his last words are not known certainly, they are most famously attributed as being "Et tu, Brute?" translating to "You too, Brutus?" He had said on several occasions that he loved Brutus like a son, and there is some dispute if Brutus really was his son. (Brutus's mother was one of his lovers)


They ran out of the building yelling, "People of Rome, we are once again free!" but they were met with silence, as most had locked themselves inside once they heard what happened. His death ended the Roman Republic, and the middle and lower classes that loved Caesar were terribly angry that a mob of rich elites killed someone who actually fought for them.


The crowd who supported Caesar began a mob at his funeral, and they attacked the homes of Brutus and Cassius, which ultimately sparked the civil war. Antony needed soldiers as Brutus and Cassius began to amass huge armies. He was able to form the Second Triumvirate with Augustus and many of his previously loyal followers. Ultimately, Antony and Augustus won.


Antony formed an alliance with Cleopatra, Caesar's lover, as she was extremely wealthy, and he started yet another civil war against Augustus. That war resulted in the death and defeat of Antony, and Octavian, now using the name Caesar Augustus, became the first Roman Emperor.


The time Julius Caesar lived in was so long ago and so different than life today, it is hard to convince yourself that the events of his life are real things that actually happened. Life in 44 BC is so incredibly different than it is today, but there are many similarities, too. Though "conservative" and "liberal" are modern terms, Caesar was a left-leaner, trying to use his power to help the middle and lower class instead of continuing to only support the rich elites, an issue that still in 2020, 2,064 years later.


Caesar's life was different than ours in many ways (we don't often get captured by pirates), but 2,000 years later, a lot of the themes remain the same.

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